Encinitas voters came out in full force Tuesday night for the last city council candidate forum of the season.
Of the nine hopefuls vying for one of three seats, eight turned out: Thomas Brophy, Kevin Forrester, Tony Kranz, Mark Muir, Lisa Shaffer, Jerome Stocks, Barbara Yost, and Bryan Ziegler. Candidate Peter Schuh did not attend.
The forum—which was hosted by the Leucadia and New Encinitas town councils and moderated by the League of Women Voters—drew about 150 voters. During the two-hour event, they had a chance to hear candidates weigh in on everything from pension reform to seawalls.
The moderator said topics were selected based on the questions submitted by audience members.
“A very popular subject matter,” she said, was centered on a recent video shot by a resident that shows Stocks and Muir posting their campaign signs before it was allowed under the city code.
Muir said he was confused about the dates, calling the mistake “my bad”—and joking that he didn’t like watching the video online because it made him realize he had a “big butt,” which got a laugh from the audience.
Stocks said that other candidates also violated the ordinance. He claimed that Kranz said some of his signs were stolen out of his garage and posted early, which the audience responded to with booing so loud the moderator banged her gavel to restore order in the room.
Shaffer said she had gone to great lengths to abide by the code, even asking volunteers to take down signs that were posted early. She also said she thought it was inappropriate for elected officials to violate the code because “if you’re sworn in to uphold it, you uphold it—no ifs, ands or buts.”
Kranz said he was not sure who had posted some of his signs early, but made it clear he discouraged it. He also said though the ordinance was “probably unconstitutional” because it infringes on freedom of speech, it was on the books and he’d “pledged to uphold it.”
Zeigler, Yost and Brophy all said they agreed that the code should be respected—with Brophy adding that the real issue behind the video boils down to how it makes voters feel when they watch it because “it gives the perception they’re playing the game in a way that’s not fair to all.”
Forrester said he’d watched the video and said he considered the violation of the code “an offensive, but not a capital offense.”
Another key topic was the was centered on downtown bars, which some voters feel are feeding a growing problem caused by drunk and rowdy weekend crowds. The moderator asked each candidate what he or she would propose doing to address the issue.
Zeigler said increased law enforcement was the answer, recommending a saturation of deputies downtown, and suggesting that the fire marshal regularly sweep through the bars to ensure they’re running a tight ship—and if they’re found to be in violation, the city should prosecute and shut them down. Forrester said he supported those ideas.
Yost said she’d bring in a conflict resolution specialist to work with business owners and nearby residents.
Stocks said he saw this as a quality of life issue because many of the bar patrons park on residential streets and disturb homeowners. He proposed valet services to remedy that, and suggested restaurant owners organize a group to help monitor the area.
Brophy said he thought the nightlight culture was the source of the issue, so he’d like to see a “creative solution” between the bar owners and “the people causing the trouble,” though he did not give any examples.
Kranz said he’d like to see the city council take a leadership role on the issue and cited a recent stabbing at a local bar, adding he’d like to see a remedy before someone is seriously injured or even killed in another bar fight.
Muir said he's encouraged community groups, residents and bar owners to come up with a solution, and he’s waiting to hear about those ideas before deciding how to best move forward.
Shaffer suggested servers be better trained about when to limit alcohol to customers, and cited a solution in Ventura, where restaurant owners were charged a fee if they stayed open later to serve alcohol, and that extra money was used to beef up law enforcement around the bars.
If you plan to vote in the upcoming election, you must be registered by Oct. 22. For information about how to register to vote in Encinitas, check out Patch’s online guide.